NAD Recommends Amerisleep Discontinue or Modify “Native Advertising” Websites SleepJunkie.org and SavvySleeper.org
For Immediate Release
New York, NY – May 28, 2020 – The National Advertising Division (NAD) determined that two mattress ranking and review websites, SleepJunkie.org and SavvySleeper.org, owned by the mattress manufacturer Amerisleep, LLC, may appear independent to consumers and recommended that the advertiser discontinue the sites or modify them to ensure that consumers clearly understand that the websites’ contents are advertising for Amerisleep. The implied claims that the reviews on SleepJunkie.org and SavvySleeper.org do not have a material connection to Amerisleep, were challenged by Casper Sleep Inc.
NAD is an investigative unit of the advertising industry’s system of self-regulation and is a division of the BBB National Programs’ self-regulatory and dispute resolution programs.
The challenger argued that the SleepJunkie.org and SavvySleeper.org mattress ranking and review websites are advertising for Amerisleep but appear to be independently managed. It contended that the disclosures on the sites are insufficient to convey to consumers that the sites are, in fact, native advertising. The advertiser stated that its disclosures connecting it to the websites are clear and located near the top of pages that have affiliate links or claims about specific mattresses.
NAD noted that advertisers have an obligation to inform consumers when they are advertising – an obligation that is particularly important when advertising appears in “editorial-like” formats. In determining whether the challenged advertising may mislead consumers, NAD considered both the sufficiency of the advertiser’s disclosures and whether a disclosure of material connection can qualify any potentially misleading messages conveyed by the format and content of the sites.
With regard to the advertiser’s disclosure, which states, “We may receive financial compensation for products purchased through links or codes on this website. [SleepJunkie.org / SavvySleeper.org] is owned by Healthy Sleep, LLC, which is affiliated with Amerisleep, LLC. Learn more,” NAD determined that it is insufficiently clear and conspicuous to ensure that consumers visiting SleepJunkie.org and SavvySleeper.org know they are advertising websites owned and operated by Amerisleep, a mattress company whose products are being touted on the sites.
Further, NAD determined that elements of the content and format of SleepJunkie.org and SavvySleeper.org inherently convey the message that the sites are independent – not advertising. NAD noted that the website names and the “.org” domains give no indication that the sites are advertising for Amerisleep or any other products. The sites include no Amerisleep branding whatsoever. Their text and images also include numerous indicia of independence on their homepage and throughout their other pages that may lead consumers to believe that the ratings and reviews contained on the site are unbiased and based on an independent, third-party assessment of the products at issue.
Therefore, NAD concluded that SleepJunkie.org and SavvySleeper.org convey they are independent ratings and review websites, a message that cannot be cured by a contradictory disclosure. NAD recommended that the advertiser discontinue the sites in their current form or modify them to ensure that consumers clearly understand that the websites’ contents are advertising for Amerisleep.
NAD noted that rankings and reviews on unbranded websites like SleepJunkie.org and SavvySleeper.org are formatted in a way that could mislead reasonable consumers. To the extent that Amerisleep wants to continue to rate and review competing mattresses, NAD cautioned the advertiser that the format itself poses additional challenges in ensuring that consumers are not misled to believe the content is from an independent third-party. Only if reasonable consumers understand that Amerisleep is rating itself against its competitors would the use of such ratings not be misleading.
Although Amerisleep disagreed with NAD’s recommendation to discontinue the websites in their current form, in its advertiser’s statement it stated that it “agrees to comply with NAD’s modification recommendation and ensure consumers understand that the sites include advertising content."
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